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Sometimes I feel like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite. “Oh man, I wish I could go back in time. I’d take state.” For me, I’d take my old weight. A svelte 129 pounds.

But that was seven years ago. And even though I was slim, I wasn’t necessarily healthy. The road I took to get to 129 involved severe calorie restriction, extremely low carbohydrate consumption and wimpy, nutrient-weak vegetables (think iceberg lettuce for all my salads instead of the vita-packed spinach salads I eat now). I was working as an intern, so I didn’t have very much money — the food I was buying was cheap: organic, hormone free, free range, etc., weren’t in my vocabulary (or, I assumed, in my budget) at the time. And it was my senior year of college, so my social activities, unfortunately, usually centered around the local watering hole; if “ladies night” was on the banner outside, you’d most likely find me inside.

I hear it from many women (and men) frequently: If I could just get back to my fighting weight…. Some people see this as motivating, but it’s a barrier for me — and a peculiar way to measure my success. When I was 129 pounds, my lifestyle was different, my stress level was different and my metabolism was different. A lot has changed in seven years. I graduated college. I bought a house. I’ve changed jobs three times. I got married just shy of 25. We added another dog to our household, and all four of our sweet pets have developed their own physical conditions — two epileptic dogs, one diabetic cat and one morbidly obese cat (poor Sids! he’s just big-boned!). I was in another car accident (although this one not as severe as my first in high school, but I still ended up with a broken wrist), which resulted in totaling my first car (I was so proud of that purchase!). And as my stress levels increased, I became more and more sedentary. How can I possibly exercise when I’m working so hard?! I barely have time to see my friends and family!

Whew! That seems like just the tip of the iceberg, and even typing that last paragraph was stressful. But it does help me realize how paralyzing the past can be if you allow it to become an excuse. I need to acknowledge those years as times of great change and be proud of how far I’ve come. It’s easy to let dire circumstances and setbacks become your rationalization for not making progress. And to move forward with my workouts, I can remember what worked and what didn’t, but more importantly, I have to know that I’m a different woman now. Chasing a number on the scale feels a little like time traveling to me.

Instead, I’m focusing on how I look and feel — are my pants looser? do I have more energy? — not just on a number (I do weigh myself every few weeks to chart my progress, but I’m much more realistic about a healthy weight loss [1 to 2 pounds per week] versus a figure from my past).

The number I will give you: 45.

That’s how much I’m now lifting in my kettlebell swings.

Before I started working out with Shane, I was swinging a 10-pound kettlebell at home. We started with 25 pounds, and finally moved up to 45 pounds a few weeks ago. (To put it in perspective, our fitness editor, Jen Sinkler, uses 53 pounds in her kettlebell swings. Granted her range is larger — she goes overhead — and she does significantly more reps than me, but hey, I was pretty proud of myself when she told me that. I see a kettlebell swing-off in our future.)

And tonight, two 25-pound kettlebells, one for each hand — extremely challenging for each limb. If you are trying to lose weight and have not incorporated strength training, please do! Do it tonight! It’s made a huge difference in how I look and feel. I stand taller and feel stronger. If you’re short on time, complexes with a plate or kettlebells is a great cardio and strength workout. (Author Tim Ferriss discusses this tool in his recently released hot-seller The 4-Hour Body.)

At the beginning of tonight’s workout, Shane shared a compliment with me: Another trainer’s client had noticed a change in me, and wanted to pass along the sentiment. I was off to a good start, and at the end of my circuit, a lovely woman from TEAM Weight Loss approached me. She reminded me that she had spoken with me previously, inquiring about the Vibram FiveFingers I work out in (I believe we chatted in early December), and told me that I look great. She even threw in an enthusiastic “Way to go!” I’m usually open to compliments, but these two in particular had me bursting with joy. I practically skipped out of the gym!

Who needs to chase a number on the scale? Right now, the way I’m looking and feeling is encouragement enough to keep moving forward.

Thoughts to share?

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